[H]aving the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints. . . . (Ephesians 1:18 ESV)
[R]emember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. (Ephesians 2:12 ESV)
The verses above speak of future grace. How often do we tend to forget about the blessings of grace we have received and instead live in hopelessness as if there were no God? Dare we to say that the God of grace, Who has given us past victories, now fails in strength to meet our current problems and future circumstances? Many people have experienced troubles in recent years which have eaten away the hope of their expectations. During the last two years my family has experienced more unexpected troubles than I would care to name. I understand very well this proverb of Solomon’s: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” (Proverbs 13:12 ESV) So maybe you consider this past year a dud, but what about 2012?
The New Year is a good time to redirect our thoughts toward the future. The beginning of a new year is a time to prepare our hearts for all that God will do in our lives during the coming year. In Luke, chapter three, John the Baptist told the people to prepare their hearts for the coming of the Messiah. A Savior had been born who represented the rebirth of hope to all who would call on His name. John the Baptist was the messenger sent by God to prepare the hearts of the people. He helped the people to see the condition of their hearts and their need for a Savior, because without Christ we are imprisoned by our sins.
John’s preaching was not at all about lifting the people’s self-esteem. Instead, John forced them to look at their own sinfulness. His message would not be welcome today in most churches. “He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?’” (Luke 3:7 ESV) By stripping away the defensive shield of self-righteousness, John showed them the true condition of their hearts. What defensive shields do you use to protect you from knowing the sin your heart?
John taught that the Christ was coming. Those who prepared the way would have their hope restored. John the Baptist describes the coming savior in these terms: “John answered them all, saying, ‘I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’” (Luke 3:16-17 ESV)
John’s ministry was also one of repentance: “John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.” (Mark 1:4-5 ESV)
We, too, should prepare our hearts for a wonderful rebirth of hope that will enable us to begin this New Year with a sense of passion and enthusiasm. Now is the time to prepare the way of the Lord in our hearts and minds that we may be assured: “We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” (Hebrews 6:19-20 ESV) When Jesus becomes our only hope, we will have placed our hope in very secure hands. Let me close by offering this quotation from William Gurnall: “Hope fills the afflicted soul with such inward joy and consolation, that it can laugh while tears are in the eye, sigh and sing all in a breath; it is called ‘the rejoicing of hope’.” Prepare the way!
Filed under: Bible, Christianity, Church, Faith, Grace, Holiness, Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ, Living Life, Philosophy, Prayer | Tagged: Baptist, Christ, English Standard Version, God, Holy Spirit, Jesus, John, John the Baptist, William Gurnall | Comments Off